Exhausted but fulfilled. That’s how I felt after spending a day doing manual labor in the Dominican Republic. While that doesn't sound like a typical way to spend your vacation, it is when you are sailing on the new Fathom Adonia. The ship launched in April as a whole new concept, incorporating volunteer and community activities in both the Dominican Republic and Cuba.
The Experience: While on Adonia, I signed up to pour concrete floors, one of the Impact Activities that the ship offers. We visited the neighborhood of El Javillar in the northern part of Puerto Plata, about a half an hour away from Amber Cove. As soon as we descended the bus, we were introduced to Ampara Cabrera, the matriarch whose house we were working on, and two of her children. They greeted us with warm smiles and expressed their gratitude through a translator.
After the introductions, it was time to get dirty. We were broken up into three main groups: those who would be mixing the concrete and doling it out in buckets, those who made a line to pass the buckets to the contractors in the house, and those who passed the empty buckets back to the concrete pile. I joined the cement mixing team. Under the guidance of a contractor, we mixed all the materials together, filled the buckets halfway with concrete to be passed down the line, then waited for the empty ones to come back around. This was repeated until we received word from the master contractor inside the house to stop or when we needed to mix a new batch.
What It’s Really Like: The task is extremely labor intensive. From the minute you step off the bus to the time you sit down for lunch, you are working (though you can take breaks and lots of cold bottled water is provided). While the work is hard, the atmosphere is jovial. Facilitators started a group sing-along and created silly but lively chants to keep spirits high and hands moving. When the job was done, we all stepped back to see the finished product. The grateful gleam in Ampara’s eyes more than made up for the soreness and exhaustion.
The Details: Busses set off at 8 am and return around 2 pm. Wear clothes that are light and breathable — and that you wouldn’t mind getting ruined. Closed toe shoes are a requirement and you'll need plenty of sunblock and insect repellant. There is also a $20 surcharge for this excursion. While there is no age restriction (our group ranged from a 10-year-old to people in their mid-60s), you should know your own limits. Someone who isn’t able to lift anything heavy should opt for a spot in the empty bucket line.